Dismantling Stigma – A Miscellany of Mind Diaries and DSM Poems


If it weren’t for my vitamin D deficiency,
I’d probably be a shut-in and coded
300.22, like the man next door who looks
like a cross-breed of Elvis and that Raggedy
Ann doll that creeped me out when I was small—

he only comes out in the deep night, sleepwalking
his spotted cat on a makeshift rope leash, always
wearing the same grayish-green pocket tee
but I mostly notice his hollowed-out cheeks
disturb me in a way I can’t acknowledge:

he’s like a human highlighter, marking in fluorescent
yellow the ways I’m essentially pissing myself
in fear daily, like most of World seems to be
I think, noticing his jagged teeth for the first time
watching his eye and the by-accident-half-smile
heckles my own neurotic way of existing:

living is in these untimed blinks, unraveling
the attention I pay to hours slipping through the bed
springs that curl, and release, in monotony beneath me
as I rise, and fall, into the perpetual space between
Cap’n Crunch and I shouldn’t have that much sugar,
as if each morning weren’t already out to kill me

307.51, 301.83

First I pry my ribs apart
to release a thousand bees

I enjoy feeling the sting
a good dirty martini brings

and fucking both men and women
I can’t stand

lying in my own echo

fingering at my sweetness until I’m calloused
fingering at my aloneness until my center is tender
enough to cut—

What do you know about being empty?


I caught sight of the fisherman’s daughter
draped over cold driftwood, painting her toes
making me forget why I drove thirteen hours from
Hopkinsville with a flag and Purple Heart shotgun,
in one hello, she Cape Hatteras owned me
like a sea swell drowning after a December storm,

she was the quiet in my hunger as I’d sit gnawing
on fishing docks while she sang songs to sailors,
could drink me under a pub table while quoting
Keats, her moon-clawing inquiries kept me sleepless
recording her every freckle floating without steam,
as if documenting each detail would keep me
from imploding, as if staying awake might bring
home Davy in one piece so she wouldn’t leave—

when I scratched out her dreams on paneling in our den,
she hid weeping through my whisky pacing, cupped
hands-to-ears while missiles blasted under those feet:
the fisherman’s daughter in her eyelet nightgown,
cutting a sunbeam between the shag rug and my eye
broke me; with her picture and my severed heart,
through alpenglow in the Rockies, I never turned back

300.3, 300.02, 300.01

I look like a whore with these chipped fake nails,
so my manicure appointment is non-negotiable
even if it means overdrawing my bank account,
so my manicure appointment is non-negotiable
even if it means overdrawing my bank account,
because if I can be perfect, or appear to be
I control

—absolutely nothing

I control
like a worm digging dirt, people can’t see me
convulsing in a turnip garden belly down
with fleas gnawing at my thoughts as relentlessly
as the compulsion that feeds off my brain

I’m overcomplicated they say, making fun of how
I must arrange my credit cards in alphabetical order
and how I leave my house over, and over, and over,
only to still be unsure if the stove is turned off
only to wonder if my dog is still alive
only to still be unsure if the stove is turned off
only to wonder if my dog is still alive

somehow the checking keeps me from feeling
hideous, like the way my father’s Budweiser stench
permeated every parent/teacher meeting as I stood
hyperventilating, like today picking a polish color
and you tell me to I must learn how to breathe?

For Medicinal Purposes

I know a man born under an air sign
who licks lapis lazuli just to feel the energy
within, it’s people like him that make me feel
quite alright on this diseased planet
with too many bodies walking around
half-dead, looking like chrysanthemums
betrayed by an early winter lashing—
but that’s how World works it seems, we’re nothing
more than a solar system swallowing up or regenerating
the masses of molecules that are either growing or dying,
and it’s my daily tragedy to admit I’m not strong
enough to bear looking close so I can clearly see
where I sit now, smoking and fighting the off-season
breeze, a salted flame on the fattest joint I rolled
just as naively into us against a full moon tide, as if
clawing your skin and fistfuls of blue sand could
keep my hollowed bones from disintegrating, as if
holding my breath on your mouth would let me borrow
wings from your eyes, or a silver penny to open the gate


Editor’s note: To view a table of the DSM codes referred above, click here.

Janet Duffy received her MFA in poetry from Columbia University. She holds a BA in Psychology from University of Saint Joseph, and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from Springfield College. She has practiced as a psychotherapist in clinical settings, but now prefers using her skills to restructure organizations and help them create cultural change. She is currently working as a strategy consultant and has a private holistic life coaching practice. She recently completed her first book of poetry and is seeking a publisher. Her work can be found in The Tishman Review (forthcoming), Interpretations, and elsewhere. Janet is also a photographer and held a TA position in the Visual Arts Department at Columbia University. She lives in New York City.

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Issue 5

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